Call for EU to suspend trade deal talks

ICMSA president John Comer

Farmers have called for the EU to immediately suspend negotiations on Mercusor, TTIP, and other possible trade deals, until the implications of Brexit are recognised and can be accommodated.

ICMSA president John Comer said Mercosur, in particular, could be extremely negative for Irish farmers, and it is inconceivable that talks can continue in the fog of uncertainty and confusion surrounding Brexit.

In relation to existing trade agreements, Mr Comer noted that some deals contained significant concessions to certain third countries, to take account of their historical trading relationship with the UK.

He said these concessions cannot be continued following Brexit — for example, concessions for New Zealand lamb exporters.

Meanwhile, Brexit has played a role in a major change of track in EU trade negotiations. 

The European Commission announced this week that EU member state parliaments will have to ratify the trade agreement between the EU and Canada.

Up to now, the decision on CETA had depended solely on the European institutions.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) talks with Canada began in 2009.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s trade commissioner, said it is “the most ambitious trade agreement that the EU has ever concluded.”

However, it is now highly unlikely it will be fully ratified before a summit meeting with Canada in October, because the approval of 38 national and regional parliaments across the EU will be needed.

There is a significant chance that some parliaments, such as Bulgaria and Romania, will reject the treaty, because of the refusal by Canada to lift visa requirements for their nationals.

There had been criticism from many European capitals that the deal shouldn’t be decided only in Brussels. 

Ms Malmstrom said the “political situation” in the EU (including Brexit) called for the agreement getting more explicit support in each member state.

The move represents a rare bit of good Brexit news, at least for Irish farmers who fear trade deals, particularly with South American countries. 

A Mercosur-EU deal would cost the EU agriculture sector €7.8bn, according to IFA — but Mercosur or any other trade deal would presumably also now have to be ratified by national parliaments.

However, avoiding damaging deals would be scant compensation for Irish farmers if the UK — our main food trading partner — leaves the EU, and decides to do its own trade deals with Mercosur, or with Commonwealth countries such as Canada and New Zealand.


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